Welders use a variety of welding processes to join and sever metals. Wire process operators use wire feed welding processes and work primarily in production environments. 

Also Known As:Production Welder, Underwater Welder, Wire Process Operator
NOC Number(s):7265.1, 7265.2
Minimum Education:Apprenticeship Trade
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to below average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:O M I ; O M i

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There are two branches of the welding trade in Alberta: welder and wire process operator.

Welders join and sever metals in beams, girders, vessels, piping and other metal components, make metal parts used in construction and manufacturing plants, and weld parts, tools, machines and equipment.

Welding usually involves applying heat to metal pieces to melt and fuse them together. In electric arc welding, heat is created as an electric current flows through an arc between the tip of the welding electrode and the metal. In gas welding, such as oxy-acetylene welding, the flame from the combustion of burning gases melts metal. In both arc and gas welding, filler materials are melted and added to fill the joint and make it stronger. In resistance welding, the metal piece itself is melted as current flows through it; no filler is required.

Welders use different welding processes and fillers depending on the type of metal, its size and shape, and requirements for finished product strength. For typical welding projects, they:

  • develop patterns or follow directions given in layouts, blueprints and work orders
  • clean, check for defects and shape component parts
  • weld parts together.

Wire process operators work primarily in production and manufacturing plants, joining components and sub-assemblies. They use gas metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding, submerged arc welding or other semiautomatic wire feed welding processes depending on the type of metal, its size and shape, and requirements for finished mechanical properties. For typical welding projects, wire process operators:

  • follow directions in layouts, blueprints and work orders
  • join parts together
  • clean welds and check for defects.

Welders and wire process operators also may use cutting torches to separate metals or build up worn parts by welding layers of high-strength hard-metal alloys onto them.

Working Conditions

A 40 hour work week is typical in this occupation but overtime is sometimes required to meet project deadlines. There is some risk of injury involved in working with torches and hot metals, and the resulting sparks and toxic gases.

Welders may work outdoors on construction sites or indoors in production and repair shops. Travel may be required on jobs such as oilfield-related welding. Welders may be required to lift and move objects that weigh over 20 kg.

Wire process operators usually work in production plants and metal fabrication shops. They spend most of their working hours on their feet and routinely handle items that weigh up to 10 kg.

Personal Characteristics

Welders and wire process operators need the following characteristics:

  • manual dexterity
  • good vision (glasses are acceptable)
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • the ability to concentrate on detailed work
  • patience.

They should enjoy building things and working with little direction or supervision.

Educational Requirements

To work in Alberta, a welder or a wire process operator must be ONE of the following:

  • a registered apprentice
  • an Alberta-certified journeyperson
  • someone who holds a recognized related trade certificate.

To register with Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, apprentices must:

  • have an Alberta high school transcript with at least English Language Arts 10-2 and Math 10-3, or equivalent, or pass an entrance exam.
  • find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice. Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. 

The term of apprenticeship for:

  • welders is three years (three 12 month periods) that include a minimum of 1,560 hours of on-the-job training and eight weeks of technical training each year.
  • wire process operators is two years (two 12 month periods) including a minimum of 1,500 hours of on-the-job training and eight weeks of technical training in the first year and 1,800 hours of on-the-job training in the second year.

High school students can earn credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time through the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

Applicants who have related training or work experience may be eligible for credit or certification.

Welder apprentices may take the interprovincial exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training to earn a Red Seal (certification recognized in most parts of Canada).

Technical training is arranged by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training and is currently offered at:

  • Grande Prairie Regional College in Fairview
  • Keyano College in Fort McMurray
  • Lakeland College in Vermilion
  • Lethbridge College
  • Medicine Hat College
  • the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton 
  • Northern Lakes College in Slave Lake
  • Olds College 
  • Portage College in Lac La Biche
  • Red Deer College
  • the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary.

NAIT and SAIT also offer technical training by distance delivery.  

Technical training for wire process operators is arranged by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training and is currently under development.

For more information, visit the Technical Training Centre on the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training website.

Outside the apprenticeship program,  the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary offers a two year Welding Engineering Technology diploma by distance and non-distance delivery. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 and Pure Math 30.

Pre-employment programs for prospective apprentices and continuing education programs for journeypersons may be offered on an as needed basis by the institution(s) listed above or other schools.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised May 2012

Employment and Advancement

Welders are employed in industries involved in: 

  • vessel or structural steel assembly
  • pipeline construction
  • commercial construction
  • industrial construction
  • steel fabrication 
  • heavy equipment repair.

Wire process operators are employed in industries involved in: 

  • manufacturing vessels
  • structural steel fabrication
  • general steel fabrication
  • truck body fabrication
  • heavy equipment repair.

In this trade, employment prospects change with seasonal and economic climates.

Experienced welders and wire process operators may move into inspection or supervisory positions. Some welders open their own repair shops, or work as portable rig welders who contract out their services. Some wire process operators open their own manufacturing plants or production shops. Alberta certified journeyperson welders who have the supervisory or management skills required by industry may apply for an Achievement in Business Competencies Blue Seal by contacting Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training.

Welders and wire process operators are part of a larger National Occupational Classification 7265: Welders and Related Machine Operators. In Alberta, 90 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 26,800 Albertans are employed in the Welders and Related Machine Operators occupational group which is expected to have an annual below average growth of 1.7 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 456 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since welders and wire process operators form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for welders and wire process operators.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Journeyperson wage rates for welders vary but generally range from $25 to $40 an hour plus benefits (2009 estimate). Apprentice welders earn at least 60 per cent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 75 per cent in the second and 90 per cent in the third.

Wage rates for wire process operators vary but generally range from $15 to $25 an hour plus benefits (2009 estimate). Apprentice wire process operators earn at least 60 per cent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year and 75 per cent in the second.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Welders and Related Machine Operators occupational group earned on average from $26.61 to $37.49 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $32.25 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training website:

Alberta Construction Industry "Trade Up!" website:

Calgary Construction Association website:

Construction Sector Council website:

EDinfo website:

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

Section revised February 2013

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Produced July 2009
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services